- Observatory: EurWORK
- Health and well-being at work,
- Working conditions,
- Published on: 21 Deireadh Fómhair 2010
Disclaimer: This information is made available as a service to the public but has not been edited or approved by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. The content is the responsibility of the authors.
The present questionnaire deals with health and safety management between SMEs and large enterprises. In Cyprus, the legislation is applied to all enterprises irrespective of size, while the Department of Labour Inspection is assisting micro and small enterprises to implement an effective workplace health and safety management system. It is important to mention that in Cyprus, SMEs accounted for the largest part (99,9%) of the total number of enterprises.
The general issue
According to several studies (Walters, 2002, HSE, 2005), Health and Safety management shows significant differences between large companies and SMEs. In these latter, especially among micro-enterprises (less than 10 employees) and small ones (10-49 employees), H&S regulation is a lot of times perceived more as a burden to comply rather than a competitive opportunity because of stronger pressure over costs, company struggle for survival, lack of both financial and human resources. Further, in micro and small firms employers do not always own adequate OSH managerial skills and knowledge and they often see with suspicious the support offered by public agencies.
The extent of workers’ involvement is ambiguous: on the one hand could be easier because of direct relationship with ownership, while lower skills and shorter average tenure and the lack of OSH workplace representatives, due to legal threshold and/or non-unionization, make workers less involved in taking care of H&S on the other.
The Health and Safety at work Framework Council Directive 89/391 introduces general prevention principles applicable to all occupational risks, aimed to ensure a higher degree of protection of workers at work through the implementation of preventive measures to guard against accidents at work and occupational diseases. The directive establishes the obligation on employers to adequately inform (art. 10) and to consult his/her employees and their representatives (art.11) by allowing them “to take part in discussions on all questions relating to safety and health at work”, thus including their right to make proposals and to a balanced participation. Finally, the directive sets an obligation on the employer to adequately train at his expenses his/her employees (art. 12) and their representatives, with regular repeals in order to take into account of technological and organizational changes and to the insurgence or changes of new risks.
The H&S at work strategy 2007-2013 stresses the importance of SMEs, high-risk sectors and subcontracting in achieving the target of a 25% cut of work accidents within 2013: in particular, SMEs are seen as more vulnerable since they have “fewer resources to put complex systems of protection in place, while some of them tend to be more affected by the negative impact of health and safety problems”.
The strategy envisages a simplification and adaptation of the existing legislation to SMEs and various forms of support in its implementation, such as dissemination of good practices, training of employees, development of simple risk assessment tools and guidelines, access to affordable and good quality prevention services, and economic incentives. Labour inspectors should play a twofold role both “as intermediaries to promote better compliance with the legislation in SMEs, primarily through education, persuasion and encouragement” and “when necessary, through coercive means”,
Member States are invited to “take steps to facilitate access to good quality prevention services” particularly in favour of SMEs, to improve health surveillance of workers while avoiding inflating the formal requirements, to incorporate into their national strategies specific measures (financial assistance, training tailored to individual needs, etc.). Further, Member States and the social partners are encouraged to promote “the practical, rapid implementation of the results of basic research by making simple preventive instruments available to enterprises and in particular to SMEs”.
The second programme of Community action in the field of health (2008–2013) and the 2008 "European Pact for Mental Health and Well-being" , together with framework agreements on work-related stress (2004) and violence, bullying and harassment at workplace (2007) show both an important shift from the original notion of H&S, as stated by the 1989 directive, towards a more general “well-being” approach, and the prominent role played by social dialogue in its advance.
Figures and trends
Eurostat figures over work accidents (2002-2006) show the highest incidence rates in medium companies (50-249 employees), while micro-entreprises (1-9 employees) show the highest rates over fatal accidents. These trends seem to depend on the impact of manufacturing, construction and transports, while in the other services industries trends are not so clear-cut. However, Eurostat figures by industry and company size are not complete in order to provide an adequate assessment over time. Further, new risks emerge and work-related diseases (WRDs) evolve from the so-called “hygienic” risk factors towards “psychosocial” ones reflecting changes in working conditions.
Similarly Eurofound 4th EWCS does not show a clear-cut relationship between work accidents, risks for health and work-related diseases with company size. When asked “Do you think your health or safety is at risk because of your work?” (question 32) and “Does your work affect your health, or not?” (question 33), respondents working in small companies (10-49 employees) report the lowest scores. However, the share of respondents not well informed on H&S (question 12) declines from 15.3% in companies with 2 to 9 employees to 11.2% in companies over 250 employees: on average, such a share tend to increase since 1995 (see the full descriptive report). Similarly, both training and involvement over organizational issues are positively correlated with company size and could display indirectly a positive effect on H&S. Composition effects with respect to age (small companies show younger population), and industry (wider proportion of SMEs in services) should be taken into account.
1. National settings and regulatory framework
- How is the 1989 Framework directive on H / S and in particular information / consultation practically implemented in SMEs? Any data available? Do administrative reports exist in particular from the Labour Inspectorate?
The Ministry of Labour and Social Insurance’s (Υπουργείο Εργασίας και Κοινωνικών Ασφαλίσεων) Department of Labour Inspection (Τμήμα Επιθεώρησης Εργασίας) has the competence and full responsibility for supervising the implementation of the legislation concerning workplace health and safety. The Department of Labour Inspection applies Framework Directive 1989 to all enterprises, irrespective of size. In practice the legislation is enforced on the basis of a specific strategy consisting of the following: operation of a suitable inspection system, promotion of hiring on the basis of awareness and information, implementation of training programmes on issues of health and safety, encouragement of research, close cooperation with the social partners and other parties concerned, active participation in the bodies and activities of the EU. Information on the Department’s strategy and activity are included in its Annual Report, in the Charter of Citizen Rights and in the Labour Inspection Services.
- Does its implementation in micro and small companies follow similar patterns than in medium ones?
The legislation is universally applied, and includes no special provisions for small or micro enterprises; the same model is followed irrespective of size. However, the Department of Labour Inspection has issued a Practical Guide for small enterprises on the subject of implementing an effective workplace health and safety management system. The guide presents a logical series of actions for owners of small enterprises, enabling them to end up with a helpful and effective system of workplace health and safety management. The guide gives step-by-step instructions for the creation and implementation of the system. In the annexes at the end of the guide are examples of documents that can be used in efforts to implement the management system.
- Is H&S the current focus of legislation or did it evolve by incorporating “well-being at work” as the basic concept?
In Cyprus the concept of health and safety is limited exclusively to the provisions of the relevant legislation rather than as a broader concept of well-being at work.
- The Community strategy health and safety at work for 2007-2012 calls upon the member states to work out and implement strategies to reduce the number of industrial accidents and occupational diseases; are the SMEs specially singled out in the national strategies and cooperation between social partners underlined / foreseen / called for?
Cyprus’s strategy for health and safety at work 2007-2013 is aimed at reducing the frequency of workplace accidents by 25%, as well as monitoring and reducing occupational illnesses in all enterprises irrespective of size and without any special reference to small and medium-sized enterprises. Apart from this, cooperation with the social partners and other bodies is one of the pivotal features of the strategy and is considered to be the cornerstone of the overall policy of the Ministry of Labour and Social Insurance. Specifically, more technocratic help is offered to the organisations of the social partners, aiming at increasing their ability to provide education and guidance to their members. In addition, cooperation is promoted with local authorities, as well as with other bodies, especially those involved in market surveillance and environmental protection.
2. The micro-level settings: the role of H&S representatives
- From what level onwards / number of employees onwards, is it legally binding to establish an H&S Committee in the companies? What’s its role and function?
According to the Health and Safety at Work Law of 1996-2003, safety committees are set up in establishments where ten or more people are employed by the same employer. The role of the safety committee is solely advisory, and in no circumstances can its recommendations be considered binding on the employer. Specifically, the safety committee is responsible for monitoring and implementing the legislation referring to employees’ safety, health and well-being. The safety committees identify hazardous situations in workplaces, as well as the reasons they have come into being; they evaluate and assess risks and implement the necessary preventive and protective measures. If any negligence, violation or failure to enforce the provisions of the legislation should arise, creating a possible danger to workers’ health and safety, then the safety committee reserves the right to inform the employer, proposing measures to address the situation, measures; however such measures are not binding. If for any reason the employer does not take immediate steps, then the safety committee reports the matter to the Department of Labour Inspection, which takes all steps necessary for settling the issue.
- From what level onwards / number of employees onwards are risk prevention representatives elected? Are they distinct representatives from H&S Committee and work councils?
Safety representatives are elected by the employees themselves in all establishments where five or more people work for the same employer. Where there are 5-9 employees, one safety representative is elected, where there are 10-19 two are elected, where there are 20-49 three are elected, and where there are over 50 employees one additional representative is elected. Apart from the elected representatives of the employees, the safety committee also includes the employer or a representative appointed by the employer.
- Does the H&S Committee deal with individual health related complaints? Does it have the right to initiate action?
The safety committee handles both specific and general complaints concerning work-related health issues, and may make recommendations to the employer, without having the right to take measures on its own initiative. It must be understood that the employer is the one who can take measures to address any issues that may arise concerning workers’ health and safety.
- Do regional/territorial risk prevention representatives exist, covering several small SME’s?
Due to its small size, Cyprus has no local or regional representatives or safety committees covering a number of small and medium-sized enterprises.
- Is there special H&S training foreseen for OSH representatives/committees? Is it adequate in order to cope with both emerging risks and legislative and technological changes in SMEs?
Employers have the legal obligation to train their employees in matters of occupational safety and health. Specifically for risk prevention representatives, the Department of Labour Inspection offers special training programmes, only for employees in public services. The programmes aim at giving them the knowledge and skills necessary to prevent and cope with health hazards at work. This programme is implemented in the framework of a scheme financed by the EU through the Transition Facility.
- In order to carry out prevention policies, does a right exist for the H&S Committee to carry out surveys, call in outside independent experts? Who finances the costs of the operations / expertise? Does this right exist also in SMEs?
As already mentioned, the role of the safety committee is purely advisory and therefore it cannot carry out surveys in the context of preventing workplace hazards.
- Does the H&S Committee have the right to consult the Labour Inspectorate?
Among its obligations, the Department of Labour Inspection is responsible for providing to employers and employees updates and all types of information on the promotion of workplace health and safety. The safety committee reserves the right to consult the Department of Labour Inspection when the need arises.
- Does regular reporting, annual reports exist which describe enterprises occupational diseases, assess the occupational risks at the workplace and present prevention policies? Are they submitted to the H&S Committee for discussion before publication?
All employers are obliged to draw up a report on the subject of risk assessment in their enterprises at regular intervals, and to keep it in their records in case the Department of Labour Inspection asks them to present it for inspection. Employers are not obliged to submit the reports to the safety committee, but must consult with employees when:
Making changes that will substantially affect health and safety in their workplace.
Making arrangements for the appointment of competent individuals who will help them comply with the laws and regulations pertaining to safety and health in the workplace.
Organising training programmes on health and safety issues.
Applying new technology that will have an impact on employees’ health and safety.
- Is the H&S Committee, when providing a high standard of working conditions and of occupational health and safety seen as a positive competition factor? Can the image of the companies be regarded as important in the context for winning major contracts? Do companies refer to the activities of the H&S Committee in their Annual report of activities, to the existence of day-to-day bargaining and the management of working conditions by the H&S Committee? Do and how differ the approaches between micro/small, medium and large companies?
Undoubtedly a high standard of working conditions and occupational health and safety is considered by enterprises to be a comparative advantage, both for the overall image of an enterprise and also for undertaking of projects and signing of contracts. Specifically, included in the criteria for the undertaking of public works by an enterprise is a very good level of observance of workplace health and safety provisions. As to the recording of health and safety conditions, this is usually done through the annual reports, mainly of large enterprises. Specifically, record is made of the training programmes provided by the enterprise, the measures taken to prevent and address occupational risks and the equipment provided to employees. However, no reference is made to accidents and occupational illnesses.
3. Social partners and the role of collective bargaining
Please summarize specific arrangements on H&S for SMEs and SME-dominated industries, and how territorial OSH representatives could intervene at workplace.
What is the role of Social partners in drawing guidelines and implementing H&S and work organization intervention aimed to prevent work accidents and WRDs? What is the role of labour inspectorates, social security institutions, OSH services and national agencies in promoting local-level experiences in SMEs? Please summarize, if there exist, the extent of the cooperation between these latter and social partners.
As already stated, there are no territorial OSH representatives in Cyprus.
The role of the social partners in designing policy to prevent, address and implement health and safety legislation is seen as an important one. Specifically, the social partners (employer organisations, trade union organisations, Department of Labour Inspection, Cyprus Safety and Health Association) take part in the Pancyprian Safety and Health Council, (Παγκύπριο Συμβούλιο Ασφάλειας και Υγείας) which is competent to:
Advise the Minister of Labour and Social Insurances on accident prevention issues.
Develop, disseminate and maintain the activities that will affect or create the preconditions for improving the health and safety conditions of workers and of the public at large.
Submit to the Minister proposals or recommendations on measures that should be taken and on the best and most effective working methods that should be followed in order to ensure workers’ occupational safety and health.
Advise the Minister on drawing up or revising regulations, in the light of the knowledge and experience acquired by studying local conditions, international developments and technological progress.
In addition, it is a standing policy of the social partners through collective bargaining to include and observe the provisions of the health and safety legislation.
The Department of Labour Inspection, in collaboration with social partners, vocational training centres, the Human Resource Development Authority and other competent bodies, organises awareness campaigns for employers, employees and the broader public on matters of safety and health, organises health and safety training programmes, and also publishes reference brochures for risk assessment in small enterprises.
4. Figures, quantitative and qualitative studies.
Are there specific surveys which prove that standards of working conditions, health and safety within small enterprises as compared to larger ones are significant lagging behind?
In Cyprus there is a significant knowledge gap in relation to health and safety standards in small and medium-sized enterprises as compared to bigger enterprises. According to the Department of Labour Inspection, up to now no surveys have been carried out regarding comparative data by size of enterprise; however the Department of Labour Inspection has collected through the computerised data collection system, some very important information regarding work accidents by company size. According to the Department of Labour Inspection, companies with 250 to 499 employees have the highest work accidents indicator followed by companies with 50 to 249 employees. Comparing the Frequency Indicators with the company size as seen in the table below, it seems that larger companies have not effective risk assessment mechanisms resulting in high rates of work accidents.
|Company Size||Employees number||Accidents number||Frequency Indicator|
|1 to 9||128 724||596||463.0|
|10 to 49||79 686||709||889.7|
|50to 249||67 427||795||1179.0|
|250 to 499||15 018||219||1458.2|
|499 and up||15 630||48||307.1|
|Total/Average||306 488||2 367||772.3|
Source: Department of Labour Inspection
Do these surveys also investigate the impact of training, information and consultation over working conditions also in SMEs?
In 2006, the Department of Labour Inspection carried out a study entitled “Assessment of the situation regarding physical and mental diseases of the working labour,” which however does not include size of enterprises in its measurements. According to this study, the vast majority of participants (84%) state that they are aware of the workplace health and safety legislation; however the level of awareness is higher among executives and higher-level staff and lower among clerical and white- and blue-collar employees. As regards source of information on health and safety matters, as reported by people who are knowledgeable about such matters, such information has come mainly from training (44%). Various other sources of information were reported, but at a much lower frequency: 14% received information from advertising or from the employer, 10% from unions/associations, 7% from informative material and acquaintances, 5% from inspectors of the Department of Labour Inspection, and 6% from the mass media. The proportion that reported that they received information from Labour Office inspectors is higher among technicians (12%) and machine operators (13%).
Almost four out of ten workers (37%) feel that their safety and health are at risk due to the job they perform. The feeling of risk is greater among workers aged 40-63, men, technicians and machine operators. Also characteristic is the fact that fears are much greater among the group of workers already facing health problems due to their present or previous jobs.
When surveys lack, are there qualitative studies investigating the impact of involvement and training on working conditions and health in SMEs?
Develop on the findings / results. Please mention / enumerate / give links.
A presentation of the main findings of the available research is made in the second question of Part 4. The study carried out by the Department of Labour Inspection entitled “Assessment of the situation regarding physical and mental diseases of the working labour,” is available at the Department’s website:
5. Good practices for SMEs: company/territorial level (max 200 words)
Are there well known examples for specific collective agreements in a given sector covering working conditions, H&S in particular in SME’s which go far beyond legislation? Are they exceptions or the rule? Please report at least one example at national level and at least two at territorial/company level.
Most collective agreements reiterate the provisions of the legislation on matters of health and safety, without making any particular reference to details regarding the nature of the work. What can be reported as a good practice, however, is that in certain collective agreements, mainly for blue-collar occupations, slight reference is made to the equipment the employer is obliged to provide to the employees so that they may perform their work properly. For example, the collective agreements for construction workers, carpenters, miners and workers in general provide for the granting of special footwear (boots) and safety uniforms, masks and gloves so that workers may more safely perform their jobs.
The Department of Labour Inspection holds a good practice competition every year in all sectors of economic activity, for the purpose of awarding those examples that have contributed in an exceptional, innovative way to promoting a total management approach for workplace risk assessment. In 2008, 25 Cypriot enterprises and organisations were awarded, which applied an innovative practice for the elimination and/or prevention of workplace hazards.
HSE (2005), Obstacles preventing worker involvement in health and safety. Research Report 296. http://www.hse.gov.uk/research/rrpdf/rr296.pdf
Walters D. (2002), Regulating health and safety in small enterprises. PIE, Peter Lang, Brussels
Polina Stavrou, Cyprus Labour Institute INEK/PEO
 Question 28a_1 “Have you undergone: Training paid for or provided by your employer, or by yourself if you are self-employed?”; Question 28a_2: “Training paid for or provided by your employer, or by yourself if you are self-employed - number of days”; question 28b_1. “Have you undergone: Training paid for by yourself?”; question 28b_2. “Training paid for by yourself - number of days”; question 28c: “Have you undergone: On-the-job training?”; question 28d. “Have you undergone: Other forms of on-site training and learning?”
 Question 30b: “Over the past 12 months have you been consulted about changes in the organisation of work and / or your working conditions?”; question 30d. “Over the past 12 months have you discussed work-related problems with your boss?”